For weeks I have been looking forward to Chiang Mai for one reason: Tiger Kingdom. Where they allow to you PET TIGERS! Holy crap! Sometimes it pays to be in a country where there are no fears for public safety. This would never fly in the States. Most people come to Thailand for the elephants. Now I must have grown up in a different place, but we were able to ride elephants when I was growing up. So not a whole lot of desire for elephant riding. I came for the kitties!
After signing my life away, I was in! They have three different types of tigers you can interact with: infants, juveniles and adults. That day they weren’t allowing anyone to play with the infants, so my first stop was the big cats.
The basic rules for dealing with tigers:
Always approach from behind
Never pet their head or paws, they think you’re playing with them. And you might lose a hand.
Pet VERY firmly. The first time I tried to pet one I was doing it too soft and he turned around to eat me.
Turn off the flash on your camera
After running through these basic rules, I was let into the cage with the three large adults. Oh holy god man. They’re huge! And you seriously freak out. They told me to start with one just fresh from his bath. A wet tiger is a strange strange feeling. The fur is much more coarse than expected. Then it was on the second big tiger. This girl they wanted you to lay down on their back. Petting them was one thing. Putting my head that close to a tiger? Ummmmm ok? Praying the whole time that she wasn’t hungry, I bent down to lay on her. It was crazy! You could hear her heart beating! Eek! Then it was onto the last tiger where they wanted to wrap her tail around your neck. Now I know it’s not like a boa constrictor where they can strangely you. But it’s crazy to grab a tiger’s tail and hold it in your hands! Seriously one of the coolest things I have ever done.
Then it was onto the juveniles cage. These guys were a little too rowdy to pet, they would never stay still for very long. The trainers use these sticks that they keep banging together to keep the attention of the tiger on them instead of the tourists. Basically your life depends on how much the tiger wants to eat the stick instead of you. Holy crap! Since they couldn’t get the little guys to sit still, they just decided to have them play all the time. It was exactly like watching my own cats at home attack the feathers. Priceless!
If you’re ever anywhere near Thailand, I highly suggest coming to pet a tiger. It’s the best thing I’ve done on this whole trip bar none.